Books, books, books!

Most of you know that my oldest two struggle with a nice mix of good, old fashioned, learning disabilities–just like their daddy and I. Now Esther’s tends to manifest mostly in dealing with numbers (dyscalculia)–like her mom.  Rach on the other hand has struggled with a solid dose of dyslexia mixed with dysgraphia–meaning that when she reads AND writes the letters get mixed around and words come out scrambled or as entirely different words.

Now Esther loves reading and has for some time. Books are her friend and if you call her and she doesn’t come she is almost definitely to be found caught up in a book. However, Rachel has been a different story. She loves stories and spends lots of time listening to them on cd, her mp3 player or getting someone else to read to her, but up until now she has been too frustrated with her own reading skills to sit down and read for enjoyment.

Last month I did what I do each year–I gave each of the kids a reading test. This is not a typical reading test like you took in elementary school, instead it gives me a clear idea of where they are struggling, at what level they can comfortably read on their own, and at what level they can read with a little help. Both girls were surprised to learn that they now reading at a 10th grade reading level–when they concentrate on reading. Knowing that did the trick. Suddenly Rachel understood what she was capable of when she tried and decided to try.

It started with her rereading a pile of picture books she enjoyed when smaller, moved to her rereading “Meet George Washington” (while they were playing school, because Esther had assigned a book report), then she read through all the “In Grandma’s Attic” series (which was not unusual–she would occasionally find a book she loved and read the series but then it would fizzle out), and suddenly she was off and reading. As a bibliophile myself, this was the moment I was waiting for. One night, at about 11 pm she came downstairs–“Mom, do you have any more books about people in history? I read all the ones I could find upstairs.” May I say that there are ton of books in every room of our house and that this meant she had read at least 10 books that night.

The next day, after she had read all the ones I had on the multiple shelves downstairs, I headed to the library and got out a slew of biographies for her to try.  She read those and perused our shelves for more–she discovered a pile of American Girls books I had put in the Paperbackswap pile because Essie had read them, Issac is just learning to read and prefers “boy” stories, and Rach wasn’t interested.  She read all of them in one night. A week later we headed back to the library and she got out 15 books (I insisted she allow me to use the other 10 allowed for the rest of the family.)  She finished most of them already and wants to go back for more.

She is spreading her interests out now–where before the only thing she would willingly read were how-to and cook books she moved to just biographies and then to include historical novels and fairy tales (I usually read them classic fantasy and fairy tales with a few historical thrown in so she seems to be keeping those for me to read aloud each night.) It is an exciting time, especially since we were afraid we were handling it wrong for some time.

As a former special ed teacher I knew that giving her the basics, reading aloud a lot, and letting her find her own comfort zone was the right way to go–forcing her to read was going to make my stubborn child HATE reading, but my mother’s heart was scared. I longed to have my oldest child love reading as much as I do and enjoy the books I love. I wanted her to LOVE reading and story and love the places it would take her.   She already loved story–that was not a problem, but I was afraid that she would give up and never TRY to read as a means to get at the story she loved. I am so grateful that finally, at age 10, she is LOVING books and all she is finding within them.  And I can’t wait to introduce her to some more of my favorites.  Believe me, I have a list, all she has to do is ask.

In case you’re wondering what she has been reading:

  • All the “in Grandma’s Attic” series
  • All the “Meet some random historical figure in American History” books
  • All the American Girl books in the house and all the Molly books at the library
  • Several chapter books about Anne Frank
  • All the “A Picture Book of______” series from the library
  • Tons of King-Smith books (writer of Babe)
  • A Scholastic Anthology of American History book
  • All the Calvin and Hobbes books in the house–again
  • Several chapter books about Helen Keller, Florence Nightingale,  and Abraham Lincoln
  • Of course the Dangerous Book for Boys, again
  • Other random books about the house including several chapters of Five Children and It by E. Nesbit because I wasn’t reading it fast enough.